Camp Polk License Plate Topper

Nebraska Junk Jaunt 2020 was crazy and glorious.  One small town, Ravenna, reported visitors from more than 250 other Nebraska communities and 30 other states.  It was definitely a fun, carnival-like atmosphere all along the 350-mile trail as treasure hunters enthusiastically dug through piles of junk. This is one of my favorite finds:

This is a World War II era license plate topper from Camp Polk in Louisiana, an army training facility and German POW camp.  License plates or license plate toppers like mine were used by military bases as a means of identifying vehicles authorized to enter the base.  This one has obviously been repainted, which is a shame, but it is still a rare find.

By the way, Nebraska was also home to a number of German POW camps.  One of them, Camp Atlanta, was located not far from where I grew up.  There is a fantastic exhibit on the camp at the Nebraska Prairie Museum, and this lonely chimney still stands at the site of this camp on the plains:


WW2 Studebaker Ads

During World War II, Studebaker hired a well-known illustrator and advertising artist by the name of Robert Oliver Skemp to illustrate some advertisements featuring Studebaker employees and their children who were serving in the American armed forces. You may have seen these before as they were very well done and there are still many copies floating around.

This one spotlighted what the ad referred to as “lieutenant, corporal and craftsman,” with the craftsman being Studebaker employee Tom Hinkle who built Cyclone engines for the Boeing Flying Fortress . His son, George, was an air force lieutenant stationed in India and another son, Bill, was a Coast Artillery Corporal stationed in the Fijis.

This advertisement starred Studebaker employee Joe Balaban, who was also wrenching on the Cyclone engines, and his son, Seabee Mike Balaban.

This ad campaign was based on actual people and not just the imagination of some copywriter. In 1944, the Tipton Daily Tribune published a story letting the people of Tipton know that this ad featuring local heroes, the Hinkles, was scheduled to appear in the inside front cover of the June issue of Life Magazine. It noted that Tom had been with Studebaker for 23 years and that both sons had also worked for the company before joining the service. In 1945, the South Bend Tribune likewise included an article on the Balabans. Joe was a 26-year veteran of Studebaker and also had two other children in the service. A daughter, Mary, was a WAVE parachute rigger first class and another son, Eli, was a chief shipfitter in the navy. Because of this ad, a publication of the 99th battalion called Mike Balaban one of the most publicized seabees in the world.

This was a great advertising campaign featuring real people, beautiful artwork and Studbaker’s contribution to the war effort. In addition to the Cyclone engines, Studebaker also built military trucks and and the M-29/M29C Weasel, a tracked personnel and supply carrier like this one at the Heartland Museum of Military Vehicles in Lexington, Nebraska:

1953 Chevrolet

I really like this eye-catching, sporty 1953 Chevy, maybe because the color is reminiscent of Nebraska’s state flower:

This particular Chevy is a Bel Air, a name that General Motors first introduced in 1950 as a luxury hardtop coupe and which would become virtually synonymous with the Chevrolet name. 1953 was significant for the Bel Air because that was the year it was launched as its own premium series with four body styles including 2-door sedans, 4-door sedans, convertibles and sport coupes like this one:

Buyers had a choice of two high-compression (7.5 to 1) Valve-in-Head engines in ’53, the 108-hp Thrift-King engine with syncro-mesh standard transmission and the 115-hp Blue Flame which could be teamed with the optional Powerglide automatic transmission.

The color of this striking Chevy is very close to one of the original paint colors called Sungold . . . .

1953 Chevrolet Paint Colors
480 Onyx Black 490 Driftwood Gray 496 Dusk Gray 498 Surf Green
499 Woodland Green 501 Regatta Blue 503 Horizon Blue 504 Sahara Beige
505 Madeira Maroon 506 Target Red 507 Campus Cream 508 Sungold
509 Saddle Brown India Ivory 

. . . but maybe they should have named it Goldenrod.